Sunday, November 21, 2010

School Book: The Prose Edda

I know I said The Reluctant Fundamentalist was the last book on the term's reading list. And that's true. But Snorri Sturluson's The Prose Edda was a book I wanted to read to help me with a final paper (and it will be followed by the Poetic Edda).
The Prose Edda was written by Snorri Sturluson back in 13th century Iceland. In it, he recorded the old pagan mythology as best he could (he was writing a few centuries after Iceland was converted to Christianity and the old ways were being lost). As such, The Prose Edda gives us most of what we know of pagan Viking culture.
The Prose Edda was a fun read. It's pretty easy to get through, as long as you can make it past the long sections of ancestry (which were not as bad as those found in the Tain). It's a great overview of Norse mythology (and was a really good introduction for someone like me who only knew a very limited amount).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

School Book: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

This is it: the last book on this term's class reading lists. And I have to say, it was an excellent read, perfect for the last book of the term. I don't know what exactly I was expecting but Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist definitely exceeded all of my expectations. And I'm not 100% sure why.
A big part of the appeal was how it was written. The main character, Changez, narrates the entire book. He is telling an American visitor to Pakistan his history, how he came to America for school, how he loved a woman named Erica, and the circumstances that brought him back to Pakistan. But it is an unusual first person narration. Changez doesn't give you the words of the American, but instead replies to what the man tells him. It makes for a really interesting read.
Another appealing part of the book was Changez himself. The more I read, the more I genuinely liked him. He has a sophisticated way with words that was extremely unique, but also put you at ease; he is a likeable guy. And while his is a narrative that you do not see very often in North America (it tended to be a bit anti-American near the end, but this was completely understandable within the narrative), Changez was always a regular guy who was easy to relate to.
I also agree with Philip Pullman's endorsement on the front cover: "Beautifully written . . . more exciting than any thriller I've read for a long time." The Reluctant Fundamentalist was beautifully written. And it really was a page turner, even if it wasn't really like your typical thriller. The more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading.
All in all, The Reluctant Fundamentalist was an excellent book. I definitely recommend it, no matter your reading preference.